The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and the Fight to Save the Earth Hardcover – Jun 8 2010
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About the Author
Eric Pooley is a well-known expert on climate politics. A contributor to Time, Slate, and other magazines, he has served as managing editor of Fortune, editor of Time Europe, and national editor and chief political correspondent of Time. He has written Time cover profiles of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, George W. Bush, Kenneth Starr, Rudolph Giuliani, and Rupert Murdoch, among many others. In 1996, as Time's White House correspondent, his coverage of the Clinton re-election campaign received the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency. He co-edited Time's National Magazine Award-winning special issue on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and he has also been a finalist for National Magazine Awards as both an editor and writer. In 2008 he was a Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where he studied press coverage of the climate crisis, and he has appeared as an expert commentator on Nightline, Charlie Rose, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, PBS Frontline, Anderson Cooper 360, All Things Considered, and many other programs.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The only thing that has become more certain over time is the science behind climate change. Pooley's writing offers a nuanced and multifaceted read on the policy and public relations strategy. This writing will only become more important now, as the political branches, polarized news media, corporations, and general public gear up for another ridiculously theatrical fight over climate policy. Perhaps most useful is Pooley's historiography on the practice from environmental economics known as Cap and Trade. Pooley shows how Cap and Trade has been used in the past to resolve battles over acid rain, and lets some of the hot air out of the arguments of some on the right who suggest that C&T is a tax (it's not) and that it is designed to singlehandedly destroy the economy (the exact opposite is true).
The book does a great job of recognizing climate change as a truly non-partisan issue. Pooley gives time to the failures and successes of both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, lefty environmentalists and righty libertarians. Pooley makes heroes of those who seek to reconcile views, and base solutions on strong science and economics. The only villains in this story are those "Deniers," fundamentalists who, like those who denied the link between tobacco and cancer, have failed to present a logically or scientifically consistent point of view, and instead, have manipulated public opinion to block progress at any cost.
The title of the book is a little misleading. The book really doesn't go back very far in "the climate war", only covers the United States, and covers very little of the rest of the world. The title of the book should have been "How the 2009 American Climate Bill was Defeated". That's what the whole book is about. As such, it is a bit depressing for those of us who think something should be done at the national level to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sooner rather than later. Admittedly, when the author started writing the book, he thought it would have a different ending, one in which a meaningful climate bill was successfully passed. However, because no such bill looks feasible currently (2010); the effect of reading the book is to be reminded just how powerful the coal and petrochemical industries really are. I sincerely hope this last statement becomes out-dated soon.
The book gets a maximum 5 of 5 stars for its depth and effort, and from what I can tell, extreme accuracy and fair reporting of climate change politics in America. Having said that, it's not perfect.
A few of the book's limitations:
1) The author does not touch upon the science of global warming, he assumes anybody reading the book is probably familiar with the basic science behind human-caused warming. The author is not a global warming skeptic, although he doesn't appear to be in the "imminent extinction of humanity" camp either.
2) The author writes about the U.S. as if it were the center of the world.
3) Although the author writes extensively on cap and trade, he doesn't actually do a very good job of explaining what it is. A nice graphic would have helped - cap and trade is actually a nuanced and not very inherently obvious concept for those new to it - I believe the author is so immersed in cap and trade politics, he forgot that the average person really does not understand the concept of cap and trade.
4) The author appears to believe that nothing bad should ever happen to the all-mighty corporate business interests, whether or not they are destroying human health or a livable environment. (He's quite an apologist for maintaining existing business practices so that no economic disruption occurs.)
Perhaps the biggest question I have about the author is whether or not he really believes carbon capture and sequestration (storage) is feasible. The author appears to endorse that coal-burning power plants can actually reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by successfully capturing the carbon dioxide, then transporting it and storing it underground or under the ocean, where it is safely kept out of the atmosphere. Unfortunately, carbon capture and storage is the most cynical, manipulative, false "solution" to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that exists today. The coal industry wants you to believe in "clean coal", which simply does not exist and cannot exist with current technology. The reason why "clean coal" is mentioned by industry is to lull people into a false sense of security that there is "a solution". However, anybody who has spent more than one hour researching feasibility of carbon capture and storage will tell you that it's just not going to happen in the next 50 years. Anybody telling you something differently is trying to sell you a bill of goods. I'm not exaggerating, just do your own research.
If "clean coal" will not exist, then instead of complaining, I would suggest the U.S. Senate and Congress to get serious about reducing greenhouse gases by requiring mandatory energy efficient buildings, and passing a minimum gas mileage of 70 mpg by the year 2020 vehicle model year (not as difficult as it sounds). Further, coal power plants can be replaced by power plants operating on natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear (gotcha on that one, maybe). Even painting roofs white can cut down dramatically on air-conditioning in the summer - ever wonder why they whitewashed the houses in hot Mediterranean villages?
I suppose my main criticism of the book is that Mr. Poole seems to fervently believe in the power of the free market to solve problems, even global warming. However, this almost religious and blind belief in capitalism is what got the world into the environmental mess we are in. I suggest "more of the same" will not get us out of the hole we've dug ourselves into. Perhaps more intelligent planning will get us out of the hot state of affairs we are in.
Perhaps the two most interesting and dynamic characters are Fred Krupp and Jim Rodgers. Both men want to fix the global warming problem with market based solutions, and both are hated by their own "side." Krupp is the head of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a centrist environmental group that frequently draws the ire of more purist organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, for wanting to work with industry. Krupp believes in markets and the severity of the problem, and he seeks to use markets to fix the issue much in the same way acid rain was fixed using a sulfur emissions cap and trade law under George H.W. Bush. Meanwhile, Rodgers, the head of Duke Energy, an electricity conglomerate in the Midwest understands the science and wants to do something about it, yet is confronted with repeating conflict that the solutions drawn up seem to hurt business too much.
Due to the fact the book focuses on these two so much a lot of attention is paid to the notion of carbon capture and storage (CCS or "clean coal"). While you might expect a climate change book to be discussing a fossil fuel vs. clean energy war, this book talks about how the coal industry more or less desperately scrambled around trying to obtain legislation that would give them enough of a chronological cushion to drastically lower the carbon footprint of their industry, thereby allowing them to remain a prominent player in the future energy mix.
The other major takeaway you will get if you read all the way through was the lack of leadership that came out of the White House and Senate on this issue. If you care about the climate crisis you will come away fairly disappointed if not disgusted at the way in which Obama, David Axelrod, Rham Emmanuel, Harry Reid, and others all decided to fight this fight without actually fighting, instead saving their political points for the healthcare battle. They decided it was one or the other, and they chose healthcare.
Overall, it's a very insightful read, but only if you are willing to overlook the length and technicality/wonkiness of the writing.
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